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Season 3, Episode 16: Achieving a Net Zero Talent Ecosystem in 2022

Happy New Year from the Transform Talent Podcast! To start 2022 on a positive note we chat with Allison Kerska, Global Talent Consulting VP at Talent Solutions, about talent sustainability and learn what the ‘S’ in ESG should mean for organizations looking to move towards a net zero talent ecosystem.

Guest speaker: Allison Kerska

Hosts: Roberta Cucchiaro and Dominika Gałusa

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Full Transcript

Intro (00:01): The future of work and the future for workers is changing. From new technologies and talent strategies to the management of tomorrow's workforce, tap into ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions' 60 years of expertise and join us for The Transform Talent Podcast, your guide to talent market trends, new technologies, and winning talent solutions. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (00:31): Hi, and first of all, happy New Year. I hope you have all had wonderful holidays and were able to switch off and just spend some great time with your families. Welcome to the first episode of 2022. We are your hosts, Roberta Cucchiaro… 

Dominika Galusa (00:47): … and Dominika Galusa. And let me say, we hope you are still celebrating as the holidays aren't over just yet. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (00:54): Exactly. So, throughout 2020 and 2021, we have talked about how so many of the challenges that existed before the pandemic are now exposed in the full light of day. The workers wanting to balance work and home for the long-term also want to work for organizations that give them a strong sense of purpose as well as organizations that give them development opportunities, upskilling and reskilling opportunities, to be able to always remain up to date. 

Dominika Galusa (01:23): And the key to success for organizations is mastering talent sustainability, which is exactly what we are going to talk about today and set the scene for the New Year. Today, we want to understand what the S in ESG should mean for organizations looking to move towards a net-zero talent ecosystem. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (01:43): And to find out, we have invited our colleague, Allison Kerska, who is our Global Talent Consulting VP at Talent Solutions. Welcome, Allison. 

Allison Kerska (01:51): Thank you. It's great to be here. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (01:53): Oh, lovely to have you here. So, let's set the scene and start with some definitions, already. There are a lot of buzzwords. There are a lot of words that we hear in the news, in our conversations, but we don't necessarily, you know, always think what's the real meaning behind them. So, let's start with ESG. What does it mean? 

Allison Kerska (02:11): Sure. So, ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance, and it refers to the three key factors when measuring the sustainability and ethical impacts that an organization or company has through investments. So, the E in ESG looks at the environmental impact of an organization's activities, looking at things on a more broad basis such as energy usage, waste production, resources, pollution, carbon, et cetera, mostly things that contribute to the broader climate crisis. 

The S in S, ESG for Social, looks at the wider societal impact of an organization's activities by looking at factors such as human relations, company culture, and the socio-ethical obligations that they have. So, this means really assessing the standards of employee treatment, fair wages, treatment of the suppliers that are engaged, and other social considerations. 

And then, finally, the G, Governance, assesses how the E and the S are implemented and overseen as well as how the overall business is run at the company organization level. So, it usually involves evaluating corporate governance such as the composition of the board, the board's accountability to the organization, and any regulatory practices that the corporation adopts. 

So, in recent years, ESG has definitely become more synonymous with sustainability as well as things like corporate governance and social responsibility. ESG has gained a lot of prominence in response to changing societal attitudes and demands, and this shift has been especially heightened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the global social unrest that we've seen over the last year. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (03:55): So, why is the S in ESG so important when we talk about talent? 

Allison Kerska (04:01): Yeah. It's so important because it's not represented as often as the other two elements are, but there is a recent report out from Luther Pendragon in the U.K. who analyzed the national media coverage and thought leadership on topics containing or pertaining to ESG. And even though this article and this research was done in the U.K., we've seen similar results from reporting around the globe. 

And so, this research focused on articles published in the third quarter of 2021, and when looking at how much thought leadership was in the media, the environmental, the E, accounted for over 80% of ESG thought leadership in that quarter, with, of course, climate change being the number one piece that was talked about. The social coverage, the S, it only had 16% of the overall ESG thought leadership share in the media. Equality, diversity, and inclusion were almost all of those elements, and governance accounted for just 2%. 

So, with social measures only getting 16% of the ESG focus, and within that, it's overwhelmingly led by DE&I topics, we know these topics are critical, of course, but so many more additional dimensions that contribute to an organization's social sustainability and specifically their talent sustainability. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (05:23): And we hear a lot about net-zero. So, what does a net-zero talent ecosystem mean? 

Allison Kerska (05:29): We believe net-zero employment will emerge as ultimately the epitome of a responsible ESG strategy, and as a result of that, organizations will have an effective talent sustainability strategy. So, as skills need to shift faster than ever, the best employers in the markets will commit to achieving a balance of being net-zero on jobs. 

For example, every time companies restructure and jobs are lost, others will be created, and people will be re-skilled to fill those new roles either inside or outside of the organization. Tomorrow's business needs to bring a sustainable, net-zero approach to their human resources. That means cutting wastes and increasing value by reskilling, redeploying, and reimagining their people. 

Dominika Galusa (06:15): So, as part of the work Talent Solutions is doing in the talent sustainability field, we heard you'll be releasing a talent sustainability quotient in Q1 of this year. We have more questions about it later as we are extremely curious to find out more about it, but can you share with us first what are the key components of a talent sustainability approach? 

Allison Kerska (06:38): Absolutely. So, to create an understanding for how effectively organizations are implementing talent sustainability processes, they have to go beyond just talent inventory and supply chain and take a holistic approach that combines the employees' perceptions with our three core sustainability practices. The first sustainability practice is acquiring and hiring talent to accelerate time to productivity. The second is engaging and evolving talent to create skilled talent at an optimum cost, and the third is improved culture and belonging by transforming leaders. 

We'll go into the detailed elements or if you'd like to, I can go into lots more detail around each of those three elements. But before we go deeper and talk about those, I wanna share the importance of balance and measurement when it comes to talent sustainability. Balance. The reason I think this is so important is 'cause it's very easy and common for organizations to go all-in on a few talent priorities that they feel are critical to their organization without taking a broader view of the interdependencies. 

For example, right now, we're seeing a lot of U.S. clients hyper-focused on attracting talent at all costs and rightfully so, based on the national labor shortage. But what's gonna happen is that these organizations are so focused on attracting and hiring that they're not paying attention to the needs and desires of their existing staff. They're not noticing how their culture is negatively shifting or how they could fill current talent with their existing teams through upskilling and reskilling. So, when they finally get their heads above water on attracting and hiring, they'll shift to the next crisis, when they should be allocating appropriate focus to all the measures, hence the need for balance. 

The other critical component to all of this is measurement and benchmarking, which is what the talent sustainability quotient will be doing for us as it comes out in future months. Because of the measures, that's so important, we have to make sure that organizations know what good looks like, right? What's the definition of good or even great? 'Cause it can change with time. But being able to measure an organization's maturity of talent practices through data and then benchmarking, provides for continual checks and balances for each element within the three sustainability practices. 

Dominika Galusa (08:56): I would like to look at each of the three core sustainability practices now, so let's start with the first. Can you tell us what acquiring and hiring talent involves? 

Allison Kerska (09:06): Sure. Well, with 69% of employers globally unable to access the talent they need right now, organizations need to ensure that their brand and sourcing practices provide frictionless, easy candidate experiences that enable them to stand out and engage employees from the first touch through their first day. The workforce has redefined the way it will work moving forward, and successful employment and retention requires adaptation. So, as employers have and are trying different approaches, some are working and some just aren't. So, acquiring and hiring talent to accelerate time to productivity requires six optimized elements. That includes time to hire, hiring practices, use of talent pools, remote and hybrid flexibility, employee value proposition, and onboarding. 

So, with many organizations still drafting their return-to-work policies and others are struggling to retain talent as the results of their policy, this is still a very relevant topic. So, if it's okay, I'd like to dive deeper for a minute on how this one element, remote and hybrid flexibility, plays into the overall sustainable talent ecosystem. 

Since January of 2021, there's been a 16% increase in remote hiring demand with 11% increase in migration just within the U.S., and we see similar patterns in many countries around the globe. At the same time, 39% of workers are claiming they'd consider quitting if their employers aren't flexible about work from home, and for 56% of workers, having flexibility in their workday is overwhelmingly listed as the top way workplaces can better support them. 

So, what's the solution to all this? It comes back to developing a policy and a return-to-work strategy that's based on data to provide for short-term talent retention and long-term equity. For example, one of our customers, a large medical system, asked ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions to build their return-to-work strategy with them. First, we went through and audited all of their existing roles and the responsibilities of each to figure out the optimal workforce balance of on-site, remote, and hybrid resources. Next, we conducted a comprehensive analysis and recommendations specific to the client's current state and future needs, focusing on sustainability, performance, and quality. 

We then identified and ranked the future risk and opportunity associated with the return-to-work model to build out scenarios that will ultimately be a catalyst for additional or alternate activities in the future workforce models. And then, the final stop before actually defining the return-to-work strategy for this client was to look at peer organizations and regional competitors for their return-to-work models to make sure that this client was competitive in both flexibility and in their structure. 

So, the outcome of all of this was a customized return-to-work plan that maximizes retention and hiring effectiveness while minimizing the administrative and public risk. And so, with this model, it ended up with five unique levels ranging from fully on-site roles to roles that were 95% remote and a number of variations in-between. And so, having this remote and hybrid work flexibility allows the organization to access the best talent regardless of the market and retain workers by communicating a clear policy for remote and hybrid work. 

But as I mentioned, there're six elements to this best practice, and this is just one of them. And so, it complements the others, and they're all really interdependent. Having a defined remote and hybrid work model opens up new markets, including those found through talent pools. It creates clarity in the employee value proposition, and it defines the onboarding approach, which requires enhanced models for workers who can be completely remote. So, hopefully you can see how these all are interdependent and work together. 

Dominika Galusa (13:06): So, how about engaging and evolving talent? 

Allison Kerska (13:11): Well, according to the World Economic Forum, one billion people will need to be upskilled by 2025. So, how can organizations ensure that the investments they make in upskilling are in the right people and that they're engaged and they actually want to stay?

So, engaging and evolving talent to create that skilled talent base at an optimum cost also requires six optimized elements: coaching and mentoring, assessments for development, a clear curriculum, training and upskilling, career mobility, and experiential learning. At ManpowerGroup, we've been tracking the number of companies engaging and reskilling and upskilling their own workforces for a number of years now, and even in the peak of the pandemic, 84% of leaders said they planned to implement reskilling and upskilling programs in the months ahead. 

When it comes to why they are reskilling, though social impact is definitely a byproduct through all of this, the driver is actually the foresight of having a future-proof workforce that can execute on business strategies not just today but also into tomorrow. And so, if we consider a couple of key facts in this area, 20% of the future workforce needs can be met by the current workforce within an organization, which means it's more critical than ever to retain and upskill the existing staff. And by 2025, 85 million jobs will be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines, but also at the same time, 97 million new roles are going to emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms. 

And so, engaging and evolving talent requires organizations to ask themselves some key reflective questions such as: What upskilling and reskilling do we have underway? What have we planned for the future? Do we have formal career paths in place, and how mobile can our workforce be? And what role does coaching and mentoring play in our organization? 

One particular client engaged ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions to build a standardized job taxonomy structure and map the associated skills for each job to their learning and development programs. And so, the first step was for us to refine the job taxonomy for better sourcing processes, cost management, et cetera. And then, we conducted a candidate skills alignment to ensure that the appropriate career pathing was mapped back to the client's internal learning platforms, and then that identified which courses could be recommended to workers based on their current role, their experience level, and their desire to do something new or different or more advanced. 

One example that came outta this was in the IT space, and the mapping showed how an IT support specialist could progress to a lead IT support technician role with the development of 11 new skills or behaviors, including things like stakeholder management, asset management, IT infrastructure. And so, by having those career maps built out and identified with specific upskilling paths, this organization now has the ability to retain their existing talent, provide them with even greater growth potential, and minimize the disruption caused by turnover that could have happened otherwise. 

Upskilling and reskilling are not the only elements though to be optimized for sustainable acquiring and hiring of talent. A strong coaching culture helps create organizational alignment. It increases engagement and supports the development of strong leaders. Leveraging an insight-driven approach to development creates visibility to the potential and motivation of your talent to learn, and if organizations have a framework to track employee engagement and they encourage frequent discussions with their talent about performance, career growth will be demonstrated at higher levels of engagement, alignment, and retention. 

And so, individuals need exposure to new groups through career mobility. They need that through career pathing, and so organizations have this great opportunity right now to take all of these elements, all six of them, and integrate them together. That's going to lead to retention of leaders and increased satisfaction with the overall organization. 

Dominika Galusa (17:24): We often hear how leaders can create a culture of inclusion and belonging, create organizations that are more profitable. So, how can organizations do this? How does this relate to the third and the last practice, improve culture, retention, and belonging? 

Allison Kerska (17:41): Yeah, you're absolutely right in that leaders set the culture for the entire organization, and the leaders who do create a culture of an inclusion and belonging, create organizations that are more profitable. And so, improving culture, retention, and belonging as part of an overall talent sustainability plan requires six optimized elements: succession planning, employee turnover, community impact or, or purpose, if you will, leader alignment, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and diversity hiring. 

And so, you'll notice that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is one of the dimensions here, but it is only one. To truly improve culture, retention, and belonging, a multifaceted approach needs to take place. According to ManpowerGroup's What Workers Want survey, workers want to be proud of who they work for and take pride in what they do, so strong brands, solid reputation, a great place to work all provide an opportunity to make an impact and are reasons that people want to work for an organization. Our research has shown that India, Australia, Mexico, the U.K., and the U.S. have the most purpose-oriented workforces, driven mostly by brand and reputation of the employers. And nearly nine out of 10 or 86% of millennials would consider taking a pay cut to work at a company whose mission and values align with their own. And so, all this to say that community impact means nothing if that purpose-driven organization doesn't follow through with meaningful focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (19:18): And as you were explaining this last sustainability practice, I was just thinking about Talent Solutions' upcoming report with Everest Group which will be out later in January. And the report talks about how some diversity types, like ethnicity and gender, are well-understood, but awareness about others like LGBTQ and neurodiversity is evolving. And each organization's diversity goals are also dependent on its geography, its size, and its industry. So, what do you think are the types of workforce diversity organizations should be paying attention to this new year? 

Allison Kerska (19:56): Yeah. With so much that's happened in the world over the past few years through the pandemic and global social unrest, it's such a great question. Each organization's diversity goals are going to be dependent on its geography, size, and what industry they play in. 

So, as an example, 62% of North American organizations highlighted the improvement of racial and ethnic diversity as their primary objective, while 65% of European organizations highlighted their top priority as improving the representation of people with disabilities. So, organizations are gonna have to contextualize their DE&I goals and define appropriate success metrics. And the success metrics need to be quantitative as well as qualitative based on actual employee feedback. 

As well, it's important to meet diversity goals at an organizational level and achieve greater diversity at board and senior managerial levels. Organizations really need to embrace diversity as a design principle even at a micro-team level and at the business-unit level. 

And you mentioned the upcoming paper with Everest. ManpowerGroup has partnered with Everest on this three-part reporting series, and in this next report to be released, it includes an analysis on which areas of workforce diversity, organizations want to improve the most. And so, ethnicity, gender, and workers with physical disabilities came in at the top with organizations, roughly 62% of them, coming in saying that this is what they're mostly gonna focus on in the year ahead. But if we compare these rates with cognitive diversity, LGBTQ, and military veterans, 40% or fewer of these organizations listed that this would be a focus for them in the upcoming year. 

I think this is because organizations are less familiar with these categories, specifically less familiar with what practices are needed to improve them, and it's these less familiar categories that I think organizations should be paying attention to in the new year. Not only does diversity in these categories create a more inclusive culture and hopefully one of belonging, too, but these populations are also going to need to be leveraged to fill key roles when there's already a global talent shortage, which is expected to continue into 2022 and potentially beyond. So, now is the time to tap into the knowledge, the skills, and experiences of these workers. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (22:20): That was really interesting, Allison. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this as well. So, as the last question, we often like to ask this. So, just imagine we are getting on a time machine, and we are fast forwarding to 2052. What do you think talent sustainability is going to be about? 

Allison Kerska (22:39): Wow. That is such an interesting question, (laughs) when I think about how much has changed over the last 30 years when it comes to the workforce, what it will look like 30 years from now. I guess what I think most is that the employee-driven priorities will continue to drive the workforce. I know we're seeing today right now, because there's a talent shortage, that employees have, or have the seat at the table, and they're driving their wants and demands. But even as the economy shifts over time, and maybe there's not a, (laughs) a global talent shortage, I still that talent sustainability is gonna be driven by what workers want the most. 

And so, hopefully, in the, these 30 years between now and then, organizations will come to better understand how meeting those employees' needs and meeting them where they want to be will have a positive financial impact on their organization as well. Can't wait to see though. (laughs) 

Roberta Cucchiaro (23:42): Yeah, exactly. Well, we'll see. But, for sure, and like you said that's what we have seen in the last years as well is that looking at what workers want, what the employees want, it's critical. It's at the, at the heart of all of it. So, yeah. So, let's see. 

So, thank you so much, Allison. This was really, really interesting, and thank you so much, everyone, for joining us today on our 16th episode of The Transform Talent Podcast. We hope that you enjoyed this episode as much as we did and that it will help you think about talent, talent sustainability in a new way. 

And before we let you go, we do have some news from us. This is actually the last episode from me as your host but don't worry. The show will go on. Dominika will introduce your new co-host in the next episodes, and I just wanted to say that it has been a really fun journey working together on this and a huge thank you to you, Dominika, and to all our listeners for tuning in. And for the very last time, I need to say this. If you enjoy our episodes, don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review in your favorite podcast listening app. And over to you, Dominika. 

Dominika Galusa (24:49): Thank you, Roberta, and thank you so much for being an amazing co-host. It was a pleasure to create the podcast together, and I look forward to what's coming next and stay tuned. I wish you a wonderful, happy new year and bye-bye for now. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (25:05): Bye. 

Allison Kerska (25:06): Bye. Thank you. 

Dominika Galusa (25:07): Bye-bye. 

Outro (25:13): The Transform Talent Podcast because we know the right talent transforms organizations and helps your business flourish. Talent Solutions, business and talent aligned.